Pacific Naturopathic - Mountain View, California
Natural Health Articles by Drs. Connie and Marcel Hernandez

Dr. Connie in SaunaFar Infrared Saunas – Perfect Daily Therapy For So Many Reasons

"The sauna…is an apotheosis of all experience; purgatory and paradise; earth and fire; fire and water; sin and forgiveness. It is lyrical ecstasy. It is resurrection from the dead. It is eternal new birth…You are healed, you are made new." Writer Constance Malleson, after a prolonged tour of Finland in the late 1930's,

As many of our patients know, we are required to attend ongoing continuing medical education seminars. At the first seminar we attended this year, one of the medical vendors was selling an intriguing portable infrared sauna. Well, we tried it out, then thought about it. When the same vendor appeared at the second seminar and offered us a great discount off the list price if we distributed the sauna, we decided we could not pass up the deal.

The thing is that we already have TWO infrared saunas (and love them both) – one at our Pacific Naturopathic Retreat Center (link) and one here at our home in the Bay Area. Both of those saunas cost thousands of dollars, and have bulky wooden cabinets that take up an inordinate amount of space. This new little sauna takes up just a smidgen of room, is easily set up and taken down (Dr. Marcel set it up in about 8 minutes) and the price is great.

Sauna is a Finnish word meaning "bath house." Sauna use is a 2000 year-old practice. In Finland, a country with only five million people, there are an estimated 700,000 saunas, or one for every seven people! In addition to the Finns, various forms of the sweat bath have been used by the Greeks, Romans, Russians, Slavs, Turks, Africans, Germans, Eskimos, Irish, Mexicans, Mayans and North American Native Americans. Dr. Connie and I experienced our first home infrared sauna treatment during our extended stay in Japan in the early 70’s.

Taking a sauna is a physically refreshing and mentally relaxing experience. Personally, however, I had always had a feeling of suffocation in the hot air of the sauna room. In conventional saunas, stoves heat the air in the room and the air heats the body. By way of contrast, infrared saunas warm the body muscles directly, keeping the air at a comfortably warm temperature and allowing for ventilation. There is never the feeling of suffocation. Additionally, in the Relax FIR sauna, your head (and hands if you so wish) are comfortably outside the sauna.

Because people are able to use infrared saunas for a longer stretch of time, they are able to reap greater benefits than those garnered through the use of high temperature saunas. Infrared heat is like being warmed by the sun, without its harmful aspects.

Infrared saunas generally provide a thermostatically controlled dry heat between 160 and 200 degrees in insulated wooden rooms with less than 30 percent humidity. Sitting in the sauna room, the sweat begins to flow in steady drips and drops. For optimal benefit, the next step is a cold shower, followed by a plunge into a cold water tub (or river) or a roll in the snow. This temperature contrast seals the pores. Excreted toxins cannot then be reabsorbed. And the temperature contrast enhances circulation. The hot/cold sequence may be repeated two or three times, or until you become so relaxed and wet noodley that you can hardly move. Many newcomers to sauna therapy are reluctant to take a cold plunge after getting so nice and toasty, but after a few times, the hot/cold experience feels so good it almost becomes addictive.

Regular sauna treatments provide multiple health benefits. Probably most beneficial is the use of the skin as the body’s largest organ of elimination. Toxic waste is safely eliminated through induced sweating. Daily sweats reduce levels of toxic metals and environmental chemicals acquired through environmental exposure, thus promoting weight loss, hormonal balance and other benefits.

A German researcher found that among marathon runners there was little or no incidence of cancer. He found cadmium, lead and nickel in the runners' sweat and concluded that these athletes excreted cancer-causing elements by perspiring. Most of us do not exercise at the level of marathon runners and need to find a mechanism to create a regular sweat. The sauna is a perfect answer.

Sauna treatments tone the cardiovascular system by making the heart pump harder, delivering oxygen, nutrients and immune system cells throughout the body. As the blood vessels dilate, pain is relieved, and healing of sprains, strains, bursitis and arthritis is enhanced. (Infrared is the same type of heat used by many health practitioners to treat muscle injuries and strains.) Regular sauna users report experiencing a heightening of mental awareness, an increased sense of well-being, and stress reduction.

Historically, saunas have been used to heal colds and flus, sinus congestion and other minor respiratory ailments. Recent research shows that increasing core body temperature creates an artificial fever that kills viruses and bacteria and strengthens the immune system by raising the level of white blood cells.

There are just a few cautions in using saunas. If you are unclear on your health status, are pregnant, are on regular medications, or have chronic health conditions, you should check with your doctor before embarking on adventures in sauna use. As vital nutrients can also be released from the body through sweating, it’s important to rehydrate and replete electrolytes and other minerals after extending sauna protocols.

Why buy another sauna if we already have two? To put it in our office, of course, so our readers could come by and try it out. This won’t be a full sweat-producing treatment, more of a short, 5 to 10 minute look-see trial as we don’t have a shower or towels available. Please phone the office beforehand (650-917-1121) to make sure the room and the sauna are available.


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